Coalition for Racial Equality & Rights

Lebo Mohlakoana: Shadowing Scheme

Lebo Mohlakoana: Shadowing Scheme Day 1

Introduction Day:
I remember the night before thinking what if I do good on the scheme, what if everything I do is wrong, what if what if what if… I even remember wanting to call in to CRER to say thank you, but I quit as I don’t think I’ll make it. Never the less I woke in the morning running around like a headless chicken, the nerves got to me as I am usually a very organised person. Finally I reached my destination the popular Hollyrood, but not as a visitor or a tourist but to learn and grasp as much reality as I can about our Scottish Politics. Sitting nervously at the reception area waiting to be picked up by MSP Clare or one of her staff members, I felt honoured and really nervous at the same time. Kate came down to get me and take me to meet Clare.

When I was doing my research about Clare to learn more about her I thought she was a remarkable lady. But after I meet her, not only is she remarkable but she more, she is kind, intelligent, hardworking and I admired her work. Immediately we had a lot to talk about to get to know each other, her knowledge about issues that matters was incredible. We talked about most things from Common Wealth Games, South Africa and the biggest issue ever, the referendum. What really amazed me is that immediately she had the confidence in me to give a small project to work on and I was really happy to know that she knows her community very well and the issues that affect them.I knew from this day that I might have a chance to work with Clare every time I am the Scottish Parliament building but I knew her staff was going to indulge me in the experience of politics the same. And I was right.

Shadowing Scheme Day 2

On this day I got introduced to a wise lady name Liz who works with Clare. And by the end of the day with Liz, I was left with so much knowledge! There was also a Councillor who works with Clare and he is based in Edinburgh. This prepared me for our visit to the City Chambers and gave me an idea of what Councillors do. But this day was information based as I got to understand how the voting system works, and this was the right time as they Scottish Parliament was busy with a new bill. Liz also taught me about campaigning and what it involves. Campaigning is not as simple as we see people knocking at our doors. It involves more for example, voter registration forms, before you encourage people to vote you need to encourage them to register first. Then the candidate has to deal with numbers, these includes how many estimated votes they need by a method of calculation. As well as high visibility campaigning; this involves activities that are planned in the street or in a public place to make the campaign more visible to the public.

City Chambers

All I thought about this day was nothing. I was not excited or anxious about it. I thought it’s going to be like being in a lecture about stars and the professor will be speaking a foreign language.  BUT and it’s a capital but because I have never been so wrong. Especially until we meet Bailie Mohammed Razaq, what an incredible story of a boy who has never been to school, was a goat header and today he is a Bailie, a person who represents The Lord Provost of Glasgow.  Personally he gave me hope and he has proved beyond understanding that anyone can make it no matter your background. Bailie Mohammed Razaq is a very busy man, as he was telling us his background; I thought all his hard work deprived him of having his own family, but only to find out that he is a family man and a father. He has brought so many changes to Maryhill which is the ward he looks after and most of all he has gained the trust of his community because of his dedication.  He also sit on may committees which are too many to mention. 

We went to lunch and then went into the chambers to listen to the debate between the members of the Scottish Parliament and Glasgow City Council Councillor debating about the budget that was allocated to our city. Now that was a heated debate. I once sat in the First Ministers Question and Answer session but this was one of the best debates I have ever been to.  I command the Council for their fight for their city.  Their fight I believe is more intense because despite dealing with the cuts they are the ones who have to deal with the public directly. I really appreciated all the work that the Councillor do and I got to learn that they have more on their plate.  Especially after our city hosted such a spectacular event of the Common Wealth Games and the spirit of togetherness that we have even if we face tragedy. 

Shadowing Scheme Day 3

This day was unexpected to me. I never thought I would go on another tour and learn more that I have learned before. In the morning there was a committee meeting about health, the office had special visitors; a doctor from Motherwell and a student doctor from Lebanon who was shadowing GP’s in Motherwell and Motherwell. She was passionate about the work that GP’s do in the United Kingdom. But she was also passionate about our politics. We spoke about the differences between our home parliament settings and politician and the one in the United Kingdom.

Then we went on a tour of the parliament. My highlights of this tour was the messages of a 100 ladies, these ladies wrote messages about each other by describing each other in one sentence. We took time to read some of the sentences and it’s amazing what women thought of each other. And the bird that was tall enough to look over the wall of Berlin.

After the tour it was time for lunch and it is very unusual to have to eat lunch in the same room with the same people you only see on T.V. most of the time. Then I went into the chamber to list to the debate about the new bill:
This bill basically it’s on the third phase and has no amendments. It always business contracts to be done electronically without a person having to be physically present to sign the documents. The solicitors will still be presented in the business process but this will be done electronically to save time and money. The MSP’s were very pleased about this as they believe they have done full and proper research. However as an I.T student listening to all the debate I have my reservations from my knowledge. But it was really an educative day.

Shadowing Scheme Day 4

In 2007 the SNP produced a manifesto and in this manifesto on the topics was changing council tax into a solution that is cheaper, fairer and simple for the residence of Scotland. I personally did not understand how council tax work, why it’s there and how it calculated. Liz asked me to do a research for Clare as she was going to talk about it in the Chambers on that Thursday.

When I did the research I firstly had to understand what council tax was about and having understood this then I decided to take a different approach to my research. I’m not sure if it made sense to anyone but the way I understood its: If they change council tax they have to replace it with something and how is that going to affect people, both with jobs and no jobs but most importantly how is the change going to affect the people.

So I researched countries which have gone through this change and how they were affected, how long it took them to implement the change and what difference it made to the economy but mostly how did it affect the people who had to deal with it. The countries I researched were Brazil, Latin America, South Africa and Australia.

I thought finding out about other countries and how they dealt with it would help us think about this change and the after effects. I know for sure that United Kingdom is a well-resourced country and any change will be well prepared for but it is always wise to consider effects of any change that is going to be made and how it’s going to affect people and more especially learn from other countries.

Shadowing Scheme Day 5

This shadowing day was the most exciting for me because I never knew that I was capable of arranging an event for an MSP.

My MSP Clare has a great passion for the community that she lives in. One of her goals was to reach out to an African Community which had its Majority in Forgewood based in Motherwell. Because I have worked with their women’s group she asked me to arrange to meet them and get to build a relationship with them. At first I thought to myself how am I going to pull of such a task? But fortunately for me Clare works with a team that was not only supportive to her but to me as well during my shadowing.

So the first thing I did was to check the availability of the hall and if its available for use on the day and time it was needed. After making a call to book a hall, which I must say was a success I was on to my next task. Now this was the scariest task of all, writing an invitation letter to the community on behalf of Clare. I have never written an invitation like that before and it had to be professional, clear and straight to the point but not intimidating. By lunch time I only had about 3 lines, details of the event and a closing line. And thought to myself wow… I’m never going to pull this off. But clearly I was hungry as after I had lunch then this letter was a breeze. With a little help from Liz and Kate, Clare approved the letter and I e-mailed to the appropriate person. I left the Scottish Parliament feeling over the moon as I never knew what I’m cable of. 

Shadowing Scheme Day 6

Today was the most amazing day. Sometimes we take the opportunities we have in life for granted. But today I realised how fortunate I was to have been given this opportunity.  I had an honour to meet wonderful women and men. One of the people I got to meet throughout this journey was the woman who gave me an opportunity to work with her and learn from her.  She is the calmest and most down to earth person I have met.  She is kind hearted and for the first time in my life, I’m really convinced that someone really cares, not because it’s their job but because it’s who they really are.

The Motherwell event today was really nerve wrecking, I had help from Nathan who works with the African Women’s Group and supported by Waverley Care African Health Project.  Nathan is one man I put my hat down for.  He has worked with this project for African Women for years and he is still passionate about it.  I guess by now he probably knows how to saw as this is one of the projects the women do.  Nathan helped with the invitations as he works with the project every week. 

As we arrived from Glasgow, the place was empty and there was Clare and her team, who really did a great job in setting up and arranging the event.  Without their team spirit and guidance this day would not have happened. 

People started coming and the attendance was remarkable, but what really caught my attention is that from the first person who walked in Clare reached her goal.  Everyone was so free and felt they could speak to her about anything.  And her response as well was remarkable; it was plain, understandable and straight to the point. 

I’m really honoured to have been part of this journey and had an opportunity to work with such a wonderful team. Clare Adamson MSP, I really thank you and your team and all the support I have had and most of all the relationship I have built and the Education acquired, I will forever cherish this experience.